MMA vs. Boxing: Which is Better

MMA vs. Boxing

The MMA vs boxing is a debate that has been raging for a long time. While both of them are combat sports, the two are vastly different in how they are fought and organized. But which of the two is better? That’s what I’ll look at here.

To answer the question, I’ll take a closer look at their rules, history, entertainment value, usefulness in the real world and much more! Let’s dive in. 

What Is the Difference Between MMA And Boxing?

While they do have similarities, there are also a huge number of differences between the key aspects of these sports. Here we’ll look at them in detail to give you a clearer picture of what is the difference between MMA and boxing.

MMA vs. Boxing – History

Boxing has been around for thousands of years, while MMA only began to get respect in the late 20th century. Many see this as the reason why boxing has such a wider fanbase, as there is more history behind the sport and therefore is more established.

Exactly when boxing was invented is almost impossible to tell as people have been trading stand-up punches for thousands of years. However, it being officially regarded as a sport can be traced back to the ancient Olympics when it was introduced in 688 BC.

As with boxing, you could say that MMA was ‘invented’ a long time ago as people have been fighting since the beginning of time. But in competitions, specific martial arts kept themselves separated for a long time with only a few exhibition fights along the way.

There was a sport called pankration in the ancient Olympic games which was similar to MMA, as was Vale Tudo which was introduced in Brazil in the 1920s. However, the term ‘mixed martial arts’ didn’t become popularized until the 90s when the UFC formed, and later unified rules were put in place.

MMA vs. Boxing – Rules

While boxing is all about standing up and trading punches, many more strikes are allowed in MMA including the use of knees, feet, elbows, and holds. This makes it appear to many that anything goes in MMA, but that is far from the truth.

In fact, with boxing being a simpler sport, there are more fouls in the rulebook in MMA than in boxing. In boxing, the use of anything other than your gloves to strike your opponent is a foul, as is hitting them on the back or anywhere below the belt.

Aside from that, there aren’t many other fouls except for the likes of not being able to hit with an open glove, not using the ropes of leverage, and no excessive clinching. In contrast, there are a wide number of ways that you are not allowed to hurt your opponent in MMA.

Aside from the fouls, the sports are quite similar in regards to how they are refereed and scored. Both of them use the 10-point-must system, they are fought over rounds, and are overseen by a referee and judges at cage/ringside.

MMA vs. Boxing – Equipment

In MMA, fighters don’t wear any shoes, and usually have 4oz gloves. In boxing, they are required to wear footwear and the gloves are usually much bigger, at a minimum of 8oz. While those are the differences, there are a few similarities.

The shoes rule is quite obvious as kicking is a part of MMA so it’s fairer for fighters to be barefoot. In boxing, lateral foot movement is much more important and therefore many boxers like to use shoes or boxing boots that have plenty of ankle support.

In both men are expected to wear a groin guard to protect against illegal blows whereas for women a groin guard is optional. What isn’t optional for any fighter in either sport is wearing a mouthguard, and a fight will be stopped if a fighter isn’t wearing one. Added to these rules, the shorts in MMA are regulated to be much shorter so they don’t inhibit grappling.

As we touched on, the biggest notable difference between the two are the gloves. This can lead to more cuts in MMA but the smaller fingerless gloves are needed to allow for grappling. While there are fewer cuts in boxing, there are more concussive blows which can make the sport more dangerous.

MMA vs. Boxing – Techniques

At its core, boxing is a simple sport as only punching is allowed. MMA requires a much wider range of techniques and skills as you need to punch, grapple, and more.

The clue is in the name of MMA. To be successful in the sport, you need to combine different martial arts. There are many different techniques you can learn and just being a great boxer isn’t enough to succeed.

Even for the boxing element, their stances are different. In boxing, you lead with your non-dominant leg which allows you to get close you’re your opponent and rotate your body with your punches.

In MMA, that lead leg is an easy target for kicks. Due to this, MMA fighters need to have a more squared-on stance to protect against those kicks but also takedowns. This is a part of the reason it’s difficult for MMA fighters to transition into the world of boxing.

MMA vs. Boxing – Weight Classes

Both boxing and MMA have weight classes to ensure fair fights. While there are differences between the organizations, when it comes to the UFC versus boxing, the UFC use far fewer weight classes than boxing does.

Between the major boxing organizations, there are 19 weight classes which range from atomweight at 102 lbs. to heavyweight at an unlimited weight limit. In the UFC, they have just nine weight classes ranging from strawweight at a weight limit of 115 lbs. to heavyweight with a limit of 265 lbs.

However, the UFC is not MMA and other organizations can use more weight classes. In the rules of MMA, 14 different weight classes are allowed ranging from strawweight at 115 lbs. to super heavyweight, which doesn’t have a weight limit.

Even though they don’t have as many weight classes as the unified rules allow, the UFC still follows the same weight limits as all other MMA organizations. For example, a welterweight in the UFC has the same 170 lbs. weight limit as in Bellator.

Importantly, the boxing weight classes are much different. For example, a welterweight in boxing has a weight limit of 147 lbs. A fighter who is 170 lbs. in boxing would actually be placed in the light heavyweight division in MMA, which has a weight limit of 175 lbs. In MMA, the light heavyweight limit is 205 lbs.

What Do Boxing and MMA Have in Common?

Despite being seen as rivals in many ways, these two sports do have a lot in common. Here are their biggest similarities.

Combat Sports – Of course, their biggest similarity is they are both combat sports. Whichever one you practice, you’ll have a valuable skill set that can be crucial in real-world scenarios. Due to this common trait, there are many fans who love both MMA and boxing.

Weight Classes – Both of them have weight classes to ensure the fights are fair and avoid other ways to separate fighters, such as height. While they both categorize fights based on weight, the exact weights they use are quite different.

Scoring System and Rounds – The scoring system is perhaps the biggest similarity in the rules. They both use the 10-point-must system to score their fights. Added to this, each fight is divided into rounds, with a minute break in between each round.

Training and Fitness – The dedication needed to training and fitness is the same. They both require a supreme level of fitness above what many other sports require. Whether it is standard boxing or specific MMA boxing training, both need exceptional cardiovascular fitness.

Explosive Knockouts – Of course, we all love a good knockout! These sports have provided many memorable finishes over the years. The only difference is that with MMA, these knockout don’t always come from punches.

Mental Toughness – If you’ve ever stepped into an octagon or a ring, you’ll know how daunting it is, even if it’s just sparring and you’re wearing protective gear. Boxing mixed martial arts athletes put their bodies on the line for the sake of entertainment and need an incredible amount of courage and mental toughness. 

Boxing vs. MMA: Pros and Cons

Both boxing and MMA promote great physical fitness, can teach you self-defense, improve your confidence, and give you discipline. However, they both carry an injury risk, have a social stigma, and can cause emotional stress.

While they are the shared pros and cons, what are the advantages and disadvantages unique to each sport? Let’s check them out.

Pros and Cons of Boxing

Pros of Boxing

Simple Sport – One of the reasons soccer is so popular is due to it being such a simple game, and boxing is the same. There isn’t much too it, as one person tries to knock the other out and if they don’t, the person who landed more punches at the end wins. Of course, it’s more complicated than that, but even a complete novice can follow a boxing fight.

More Lucrative – Is boxing better than MMA? That’s debatable but for those dreaming of a career in combat sport, boxing is much more lucrative. While a lot of top level UFC can earn millions, that is only for a select few. Even mid-level boxers can become millionaires, especially if they are popular.

Less Violent – Many see boxing as less violent than MMA. There is less blood spilled and you can’t hit a fighter after they’ve been knocked down. Due to this, along with its richer history, there is less of a social stigma when it comes to boxing.

Cons of Boxing

More Concussions – While it may be visually less brutal, MMA fighters suffer from fewer concussions. Boxers have bigger gloves, have time to recover after knockdowns, and the fights last longer. That leads to many more blows to the head during a fight.

Politics – Boxing is hugely political and there are many instances where the best fighters haven’t fought each other due to external factors. It leads many to be frustrated with the sport as it’s a lot easier for champions to avoid dangerous opponents.

Limited Skill Set – Are you looking into boxing as you want to have some real-world self-defense prowess? While learning boxing can be very useful, it has a limited skill set as you won’t learn about grappling.

Pros and Cons of MMA

Pros of MMA

Lack of Politics – The UFC is the pinnacle of MMA and in that organization, the best fight the best. While politics can play their part, fans get must less frustrated than in boxing. An MMA fighter prides themselves on fighting all the most dangerous challengers.

Versatility – Find yourself in a real-world fight and it has gone to the floor? If so, MMA is going to give you a wide range of tools that allow you to overcome your opponent or diffuse the situation. MMA fighters need a versatile skillset to succeed.

Less Head Trauma – The small gloves of MMA lead to more cuts, but quicker knockouts. This is actually a positive thing. It means a fighter doesn’t need to sustain a huge number of concussive head blows and instead, is put out of their misery quickly.

Cons of MMA

Less Money – Behind the glitz and the glamor of the millionaire stars, there are thousands of MMA fighters who aren’t paid enough to make a living. Even lower-level UFC fighters don’t get paid a lot. It’s a tough life for most MMA fighters.

Complexity – This is seen as a pro by lovers of MMA but it can be a barrier for potential fans and fighters. The uninitiated have very little idea of what is going on during grappling and don’t take time to appreciate the technical complexities of the sport.

Higher Cut Risks – Put it this way, the canvas after a night of boxing usually has a lot less blood on it than that of an MMA octagon! While boxing has more concussions, MMA has a much higher rate of open wounds.

MMA vs. Boxing: The Big Questions

Many people wonder which of these two forms of fighting would be more effective in real-world situations. With that in mind, let’s take a look at the most commonly asked questions.

MMA vs. Boxer: Who Would Win?

It depends on what the rules were and where the fight was taking place. If we’re talking about a street fight between a great MMA fighter and a great boxer, then most people would back the MMA fighter, as they would eventually take the fight to the floor.

That said, as long as they were standing, the boxer would have the advantage. Even though an MMA fighter will learn striking, this is all a boxer knows. They’ll have a much better punching technique, but the MMA fighter would fancy their chances.

MMA vs. Boxing: Which is better for self-defense?

MMA is better for self-defense, it’s hard to make any argument against it. Someone with elite MMA skills can adapt to any situation and overcome it. While boxing is better in stand-up situations, an MMA fighter would still have a huge advantage in striking ability vs a regular untrained attacker.

Want to learn boxing for self-defense and don’t like MMA? No problem. Learning boxing will still give you excellent skills you can use in a real fight, but just without the versatility of MMA.

MMA vs. Boxing: Which is more effective for UFC?

It has been shown countless times that great boxing skills can win UFC fights. That being said, you’d quickly get found out if boxing was your only skill set. An opponent will guard against your punches, take you to the ground, and then it’s game over.

If you want to make it to the UFC, then you need the excellent all-around skillset that can only come from MMA training.

MMA vs. Boxing: Which is more effective in a street fight?

Many street fights are over before they have even begun. Having great boxing skills means you can usually avoid the first punch and easily deliver your own. That being said, having a basic level of MMA skills gives you more versatility to win a street fight when it comes to UFC fighter vs boxer.

MMA vs. Boxing: Who wins for physical fitness?

People vastly underestimate the fitness needed for boxing. Not only that, but there is usually a significant time difference between these two sports. A standard MMA fight is usually over three rounds of five minutes, which is 15 minutes of action.

Even mid-level boxing bouts are contested over 12 rounds, which are three minutes long. Here you’d be fighting for a total of 36 minutes. Due to this, an elite-level boxer needs more fitness than an elite-level MMA fighter.

That being said, both require an exceptionally high level of fitness. If you wanted to get in peak condition, either of them would be a great way to do it.

MMA vs. Boxing: Which is right for you?

It depends on your goal. If you just want to have fun, then you should choose whichever of these two sports is your favorite. For those looking to become a professional athlete, it’s best to choose the one that most closely matches your skillset.

It’s important to look at all of the points we’ve looked at above and come to your own judgment. Both of these sports are fantastic for a wide range of reasons so look at what you want to achieve and choose the sport that gives you the most realistic chance of achieving it.

Final Thoughts

Both of these sports are very closely matched and have a long list of benefits. When it comes down to which one is better, it more or less comes down to personal preference.

If you want to learn a combat sport, then both MMA and boxing give you an opportunity to earn a  lot of money and learn a valuable self-defense tool. It’s all about choosing the sport that meets your goals and circumstances.

Share This Post
Kenny Jarvis
Kenny Jarvis
I have been practicing and studying boxing since I was a teenager. I am passionate about the sport, along with many other martial arts. While my fighting days may be over, I love channeling my passion into my writing to provide insightful blogs.